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Politics Report: What the Mayor Didn't Say in His Big Speech

Nary a word on the search for the next police chief. The scrum to replace a longtime congressman. And Nathan Fletcher sits for a lot of questions.

File: Mayor Kevin Faulconer delivers his 2017 State of the City speech. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

One of my favorite things we do is our annual annotated copy of Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s State of the City Speech. Several reporters contributed to the 2018 edition.

So check that out for a comprehensive look at the speech.

The most remarkable part of his speech: “America’s Finest City will no longer tolerate the use of a sidewalk, a riverbed or a tarp as a home.” This is quite a claim. As we have been documenting for years, homeless tent cities proliferated downtown and remained a permanent part of the landscape.

That changed this year when the mayor and police reacted to the hepatitis A outbreak and stories that they didn’t seem to have any urgency about it.

There are still many people sleeping out in makeshift shelters. It is quite something to now assume that when you see one, you know the city is committed to clearing it out.

Some points he didn’t make: The mayor started his speech with a promise of candor, saying he was taking a “different approach” to this year’s speech and wanted to have a more direct conversation.

But he was not very candid. I only counted one-and-a-half admissions of vulnerabilities on the mayor’s part. If you’re going to promise candor, I think you have to come with at least three vulnerabilities.

The one acknowledgement he did offer was his point that, in the past, he had been among politicians who fought the location of homeless services efforts in their districts.

The half acknowledgment was his nod to how bad the homeless situation had gotten. “Last year, I learned firsthand the old ways of tackling these issues don’t work anymore.”

Half a sentence on the search for a new police chief: The mayor gave outgoing San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman some love. She’s obviously quite popular in many circles and the talk about her political future, if there is one, is only going to intensify.

But replacing her will be an extremely important decision. It’s hard to picture a choice he’ll make this year that will be more important than that.

Yet he barely mentioned it. “Our next police chief will work to keep our city one of the safest in the nation, working with a great partner in Fire-Rescue Chief Brian Fennessy.”

Not a word about how the search was going, what qualities he was looking for, how the public had helped and could keep helping.

More on that: When the police chief search generated headlines a few months ago, the mayor was not the public face of it. That was Scott Chadwick, the city’s chief operating officer.

This mayor sure has a way of showing it when he’s just not into something.

Nothing on SoccerCity vs. Friends of SDSU: This is the first State of the City speech I’ve seen in my now 15 years of them that didn’t include any mention of the Chargers. Obviously, that makes sense.

What surprised me is the lack of any words (not one!) on the battle brewing for the land on which the Chargers once played. The mayor has endorsed the SoccerCity plan, of course and we haven’t heard anything about him backing off that.

But to not lay out any hopes for what is by far the most important piece of land in the city without a plan for what it should be is mindboggling. Voters will have to choose this year. Clearly the mayor will have to provide some vision for what should happen.

Friends of SDSU Still Petitioning

Jack McGrory, a member of Friends of SDSU, explains the initiative. / Photo by Scott Lewis

Signature gatherers cashing in: On Dec. 29, the Friends of SDSU announced that signature gatherers had collected more than 100,000 signatures from San Diego voters.

“After final processing of the petitions, the signatures will be submitted to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters for verification following the New Year’s holiday,” read a triumphant press release.

But this weekend, two weeks later, signature gatherers heard that Friends of SDSU wanted them to keep working. They could earn $10 per signature in a final weekend push.

The hotline for signature gatherers at Victory Consultants was buzzing: “The client on the San Diego State issue does want our team out working over the weekend. Listen, at 10 bucks a signature, we hope they keep telling us to do it every weekend.”

The explanation: Friends of SDSU issued a statement when I called to check in about what was going on. They said they would be turning in the signatures to the Registrar of Voters on Tuesday.

“The Friends of SDSU steering committee proactively decided to reschedule the turn-in event to accommodate schedules of members of our entirely volunteer committee and due to rainy weather earlier this week,” wrote Kim Kilkenny, a member of the committee.

Be smart: It is likely the group will meet the signature threshold to qualify for the ballot. But they’re not going to spend $10 per signature in a final weekend push just for fun.

More: Local signature gatherers are working on nine (9!) other petitions locally for mostly statewide issues. Here’s a rundown of some of those from CALmatters. And they’re about to start on the big Convention Center hotel-tax measure.

Issa, Holy Moly

Darrell Issa

Rep. Darrell Issa holds a town hall in Oceanside, March 2017 / Photo by R. Adam Ward

The little OCDaily news website got the scoop this week that U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa was not going to run for re-election in the 49th Congressional District.

It was such big news that the site could not handle all the traffic it was getting. Pretty soon, Issa confirmed it and we all had our own versions of the story. Hours later, when things finally calmed down, you could access OCDaily again and it gave an indication where the news came from.

Next to the post is an ad for Gilliard Blanning campaign consulting firm. Dave Gilliard is Issa’s longtime political consultant. He is also the consultant for Diane Harkey, a member of the Board of Equalization. The OCDaily story leads with her getting Issa’s endorsement and includes a picture of her.

The effort was on, and on early, to frame Harkey as the favorite to try to protect the seat for the GOP. But Gilliard wasn’t the only consultant trying to make sure his client got some attention.

Here’s our rundown of who the GOP may settle on.

Something to think about: This will be a nonpartisan primary. The top-two finishers will move on to the November runoff no matter what party they’re from. A GOP consultant told me there’s no way that this doesn’t settle into a runoff between a Republican and a Democrat.

I’m not so sure.

Neither is Will Rodriguez Kennedy, the president of San Diego Democrats for Equality. He sent out a newsletter pleading with one or two of the Democrats to drop out and consolidate. The Democrats have four high-profile candidates in the race.

“That means that if Republicans field two solid candidates that could yield a split in their vote (as Rocky Chavez and Diane Harkey definitely could) and Democrats do the same on their side (definitely likely) that means this could end up a Republican on Republican race that ends up shutting out Democrats,” Rodriguez-Kennedy wrote to his email list.

The thing is, it also seems unlikely that only two high-profile Republicans go for this seat. It’s just too attractive.

Reality check: “We haven’t seen this kind of situation since Cunningham had to resign, this kind of free for all,” Jennifer Jacobs, a GOP consultant, told me.

Issa just running from his district? Gilliard insisted to the LA Times that Issa was not laying the groundwork for a run for the 50th Congressional District and the seat currently held by Duncan Hunter, Jr. But remember, a lot of Issa’s 49th District used to cover a lot of the 50th. This was not the dumbest train of thought last week.

The vultures are clearly out, circling over Hunter’s seat as he impatiently waits out an FBI investigation into whether he illegally spent campaign donations. The case doesn’t seem that unclear, which has led to much speculation that Hunter’s done.

Hunter wants a say in whether he’s running. He says he’s still running.

District 2 Scrum: And More Quick Hits

Bryan Pease / Photo by Sam Hodgson

Bryan Pease, a candidate for San Diego City Council District 2, obviously sees Jen Cambell as his top rival in his bid to face off with Republican incumbent Lorie Zapf.

He released a poll this week which touts that he beats Zapf … among Democrats. The problem for him, of course, is that not only Democrats get to vote in the race.

His poll found that without any other information, respondents preferred Zapf:  38.7 percent over Pease at 19.7 percent. There are a lot of undecideds though. Check out his full poll here.

Campbell got in some hot water this week when the San Diego Free Press posted a video of her saying that pandhandlers on the street were probably just faking their poverty and the city needed more police officers to take care of them.

She walked the comments back a bit. “As a new candidate, I have learned that I need to choose my words more carefully.”

Nathan Fletcher: He visited the Great Voice of San Diego Podcast Studio this week and took all of Ry Rivard and my questions. He’s clearly tired of talking about his party switch and we didn’t want to harp on it. We tried to focus more on the principles underlying various policies and how he’s evolved on them.

Something to watch: The mayor said the most important thing we can do for the economy next year is support the hotel-tax hike proposal that his allies and business and labor groups finalized. Here’s our analysis of how it differs from Faulconer’s push last year. Basically, it puts a lot more money into homeless services, puts off the investment in streets and is a lot more flexible for where the expansion of the Convention Center can actually go.

Who will fund the campaign now? Will labor and hotel owners split the cost to gather signatures (if it’s at $10 per signature for SDSU now, where is the price on that going?). Will it survive legal questions about whether it is about just a single subject, in this case, tourism?

And will it get the support it needs? The tax is going to be a bigger increase than imagined before with more of what liberals wanted. Will the mayor’s right flank hold with him?

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